Oracle Buys Toplink Mapping Technology

Purchase deemed good fit, but WebGain fate uncertain.

Oracle Corp.s acquisition last week of the TopLink object-relational mapping technology from WebGain Inc. is a boost for Oracle and a possible death knell for WebGain.

Oracle bought TopLink, a technology line developed and supported out of Ottawa-based WebGain Canada, a division of WebGain. Oracle officials said the acquisition included the TopLink technology and all TopLink employees, including the WebGain Canada staff and some employees in WebGains offices in San Francisco and Raleigh, N.C. That includes about 90 TopLink employees.

Oracle officials said that one of their key objectives is to provide high-performance solutions to the Java 2 Enterprise Edition development community. To that end, TopLink products fill a critical need for storing business objects and components in a relational database, while maximizing Java developer productivity, Oracle said. Developers can expect to save 30 to 40 percent of project resources using TopLink, the Redwood Shores, Calif., company said.

Oracle officials said TopLinks benefits are in line with two of Oracles key objectives—to provide infrastructure software that helps companies deploy new applications and Web services more quickly and to help Java developers be more productive.

John Meyer, an analyst with Giga Information Group Inc., in Cambridge, Mass., said TopLink is a good fit for Oracle and Oracle is a good distribution channel for TopLink.

Meyer said there might be some internal issues around Oracle Business Components for Java and TopLink, but he expects they will be ironed out.

The bigger issue is what happens to WebGain. Sources said WebGain had been shopping portions of its portfolio around as it laid off portions of its staff. With TopLink gone, sources said, the companys VisualCafé Java IDE (integrated development environment) could be sold or turned over to open source.

Meyer said that is unlikely to go over well. "There is already [IBMs] Eclipse and [Sun Microsystems Inc.s] NetBeans," he said. "There is no room for another" open-source IDE.

Meyer said the sale of TopLink could mean the end of WebGain.

WebGain officials were not available for comment. No financial details of the deal were released.